Conspiracy of Fools: A True Story
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Conspiracy of Fools: A True Story

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4.21 of 5 stars 4.21  ·  rating details  ·  2,078 ratings  ·  200 reviews
From an award-winning New York Times reporter comes the full, mind-boggling story of the lies, crimes, and ineptitude behind the spectacular scandal that imperiled a presidency, destroyed a marketplace, and changed Washington and Wall Street forever . . .
It was the corporate collapse that appeared to come out of nowhere. In late 2001, the Enron Corporation--a darling of t...more
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Published March 14th 2005 by Random House Audio (first published January 1st 2005)
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Kirsti
Would YOU like to cause the biggest bankruptcy in American history? Sure you would! Well, Enron has already gone kablooey, losing billions of dollars, throwing more than 20,000 people out of work, and contributing to at least one suicide. But you can use the Enron approach to management at your company by following these easy rules.

* Don't keep track of how much money is coming in.

* Don't keep track of when your bills are due. Petty details are boooooriiiiing.

* Reward people for getting a deal d...more
Erin
Aug 24, 2008 Erin rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: anyone working for the man
Recommended to Erin by: nathan
To be honest, I wasn't sure I could make it through 675 pages on the collapse of Enron. Pipelines, hedge funds, mark-to-market accounting, profit-shifting, energy deregulation - b-o-r-i-n-g, right? Not at all, actually.

I read this book non-stop and am tempted to read it a second time. Eichenwald's writing stle made the topic so palatable (delicious, in fact) that it read like a suspense novel - full of lurid details, unedited dialogue, juicy affairs, boardroom brawls and felonies. His writing s...more
Donitello
This book gives sobering data, while reading like a best-selling mystery--a bona fide page-turner.

The book is particularly relevant when we put the story of Enron into perspective: Geo. W. Bush's longtime personal friendship with Enron head Ken Lay; Bush's own businesses in the 1980s--Arbusto and Spectrum 7--also collapsing shortly after HE sold out his personal stock; numerous other financial giants coincident with Enron (eg., Arthur Anderson, Tyco, Worldcom, etc.) demonstrating the same fiscal...more
kareem
A corporate culture of greed, a focus on fast profits, a few bad eggs, and a ridiculous lack of board, executive, and accounting oversight combined to turn Enron into a catastrophic failure.

The most interesting thing for me was that a few Enron employees were aware of what was happening, but either didn't want to speak up, or spoke up and were ignored (sometimes repeatedly).

While I was reading, I wondered whether the shenanigans would have been exposed earlier if data was made available to all...more
Janet
If Shakespeare was alive, he would have stolen this book's plot and written a play: The Tragical Death of Enron. It's got it all.

An aging ruler must choose his successor - a boring, responsible guy or an exciting, dashing, brilliant risk taker. He chooses the risk taker. But although his successor is exciting and bold, he lacks the inner strength and moral compass to guide the kingdom. Things quickly start to go wrong, so he chooses a clever man to look after the kingdom's money - one he knows w...more
Brian
Dec 07, 2007 Brian rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Dorks like me who like to see big business blunders
Conspiracy of Fools is the fourth Enron-related tale I've read (Smartest Guys in the Room, Enron: The Rise and Fall, and Anatomy of Greed being the other three). In it, Eichenwald does a decent job of combining the best of the three others, as if he poached some from each. Conspiracy reads as a novel, combining facts and details with (presumably) fictional conversations. The sometimes outrageous discussions between characters left me feeling that Eichenwald embellished a little too much, and at...more
Anthony
This is a long book - almost 700 pages - but an easy read. Everyone knows the story of Enron from the anecdotes, and I've read a few other books on the subject, but this is by far the best and most complete. It does a great job of tracing how some minor decisions years earlier - to use mark-to-market accounting, to form off-balance-sheet entities that really weren't, managed by Andy Fastow, who probably shouldn't have been managing a McDonalds - led to it's ultimate collapse.

The "Conspiracy of F...more
Bookmarks Magazine

The Enron story remains the same, no matter how many times it's retold. In matters of style, at least, Conspiracy of Fools trumps the other books on the subject. Critics' pens dangle like swords of Damocles over the cinematic scenes that are central to the book's appeal: Can dialogue be recounted so accurately after 20 years of echoes? Maybe not. But 40 pages of detailed source notes buy Eichenwald some relief from the red ink. There are nitpicks: Enron executive Andrew Fastow comes across as a

...more
Carter
Enron at the end of the 20th century became a breeding ground for probably the most complex business scandal in history, but Eichenwald expertly breaks it all down & puts it in highly readable perspective. He explains in detail how an old-school pipeline company grew into a multi billion-dollar game of Three-card Monte, and how a handful of journalists & second-string market analysts finally began to uncover the scam. At the same time, he never takes his eye off the personalities behind...more
Yvonne
May 26, 2008 Yvonne rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: anyone
This is an eye opening book. I learned so much about the way capitalism works and about how dumb smart people can be. It is mind boggling. The journalistic writing style makes it quite readable. Sometimes the shift in emphasis with out any written transition is sometimes confusing. The details of meetings and lives including rides in elevators and descriptions of luxury hotels adds a lot of color and enhances the feeling of a well told story not just a piece of factual reporting.

The details of...more
John
Let me start by saying that, if i remember right, i cheated/cried my way through all finance and accounting classes i had to take in college. I'm not upset by that now, because those classes sucked and i am stupid. Nothing to argue with so far.

So there is no f-ing reason for me to read or even go near this book. Especially when i remember watching the enron documentary in college and falling asleep in class and hating my life.

so when i found it at my grandfathers house....fysh!...i'm bored alre...more
Samantha
Jul 27, 2007 Samantha rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: true-crime, business
This book was awesome! It's a nonfiction book about the Enron scandal that reads like a suspense novel. I could hardly put it down. It was amazing to me just how much Enron was able to get away with before the whole house of cards came crashing down.

I had to read some of the technical stuff more than once to understand it, but even getting just the gist of it was fine. Taking the time to understand the sleights of hand that occurred makes the whole thing even more amazing, however.

Great book on...more
Kathleen Hagen
This is the story f the rise and fall of Enron. It spans 15 years, and Eichenwald, through his use of background material and interviews, and without trying to imagine any single event himself, has created a thriller which, if it had been written as a novel, no one would have believed to be credible. But every bit of it happened. The book was too long for me at times since Eichenwald faithfully reported everything he found out in chronological order. But, also because he did that, the reader got...more
James
675 pages, but the writer has a talent for telling stories,
and there are hundreds of stories here.
Very pleasant and interesting to read.

But is it all true?

The author makes it sound like the slimey ratfink Andy Fastow was 90% to blame,
and that Skilling and Lay barely knew what was going on.

I find that hard to believe.

In any case, Skilling is still in prison.

And CEO's are still looting companies with excessive pay and outrageous stock options.

Alec
wow, the story is a little played by now, but the writing is fantastic. The smoke and mirror details of how a handful of men destroyed a fortune 100 company and took millions of investors down with them. I have liked everything I have read from eichenwald... I am hoping for more corporate scandals just on the chance that they result in more of his books.
Andy
I would never think I'd enjoy a book about Enron so much. Actually, if you asked me what would make a boring book topic, Enron would probably be in the top five. But this book is definitely not boring. I have to agree with what I've seen other commenters say that this book is so well-written, it reads like more like a novel than non-fiction.
Thom Dunn
Difficult to overstate how much more substantial this book is compared with the many quickie-business-expose's out there. Published in 2005. Wonder if Eichenwald is working on a book about the Dastardly Derivatives Debacle.
Roger Royse
what a bunch of idiots
Monte
All to relevant...same accounting changes have been approved again....we don't learn from our mistakes!
This enormous, intimate blow-by-blow of Enron's implosion gets as close to what actually happened, in terms of people making (bad) decisions in real time, as anyone who wasn't there with a concealed video-phone possibly could. Having combed endless documents and interviewed countless principals and peripherals, Eichenwald (The Informant) presents short declarative sentences (and lots of sentenc...more
Bill Keefe
I listened to this book on CD.

Another pleasant surprise. I don't usually read books about business but was intrigued by what I remember of the ENRON story. Saw the 25 CD colossus on the shelf in the library and picked it up, figuring it would be interesting or deadly. Better, it was fascinating.

Read like a mystery thriller but also gave real insight into the mess a business can be and the human frailties of the people who run and participate in businesses. I was thoroughly absorbed in the story...more
Justin
A very entertaining, easy-to-read book about a topic I did not know very much about. Although the book is of couse non-fiction (about Enron), it reads very much like a work of fiction, which is both good and bad. It is good because the book is far less dry than it otherwise would be. It is bad because portions of the dialogue are completely unbelievable and do not seem very realistic. There are also portions of the book where he describes what some of the relevant people were thinking when certa...more
Jonathan
This is a long book, but one feels like details are still missing. There is so much to the Enron collapse, and Arther Anderson shredded a lot of it. The book was very interesting and learned a lot about business, and how business is structured. It is astounding that the author could catalog so many sources and present in a readable format. He did a good job presenting the facts of Enron's rise and fall.

Books like this should be required reading for Business majors. We shouldn't have had to pass...more
Leon Keylin
There is just over a hundred people in
America who are unaware of Enron
scandal. Out of millions, there are millions
who don't know the details of how, why,
and even when this all started. Many
would recall the trials, the photos, videos
of some guys in suits being led out in
handcuffs. Many would tell others that
this was the norm of any firm that gets in
to investment trading, others would come
to believe that this was the other world,
where people get rich and get slapped on
the wrist for not...more
Max
Not sure how to rate this book: the quality of the research is amazing (5) but the quality of the writing isn't terribly excellent (3), so maybe 4?

Eichenwald has reached definite conclusions about who was at fault for the Enron fiasco (Andy Fastow, mostly, plus a whole bunch of borderline-competent, or just busy, managers), and I wonder whether his picture meshes with that of others who have studied the system. Regardless, having worked in an office I find Eichenwald's version of the truth compe...more
Simon Cleveland
Forget Grisham. Forget Finder. Kurt Eichenwald delivers the real deal. Carefully researched, coupled with a number of years of experience as an investigative journalist, Eichenwald tells the unbelievable (but true) saga of the biggest bankruptcy in US history - Enron's. Illuminated by the perverse machinations of a former CFO, the story details the sins of capitalism - deception of the greedy, disillusionment of the powerful, and the carelessness of those who are suppose to be impartial. Masterf...more
Eric
True account of the Enron collapse. One of those non-fiction books that sounds like it should be boring, yet so many people rave about it, that you have to check it out. Well, they're right, It's actually pretty fascinating. Takes some patience to get into (unless you are an accountant or investment banker, in which case it is probably thrilling from page 1). I had to suppress my concern that I wasn't understanding all of the financial details, and allow myself to be content with just getting th...more
Atiba
Of course, we all remember the Enron meltdown of fall 2001 even if at six years' remove it's hard to remember exactly what went wrong with the company. Eichenwald spells it out quite simply at one point: Enron became more devoted to reporting profits than actually making profits. Conspiracy of Fools uses a "fly-on-the-wall" technique to reconstruct events, arguments, and even the food people were eating and the chairs they sat on. This dissection of corporate corruption makes clear that there we...more
Brian
(4.0) Great recounting of the Enron train wreck, can't believe this all actually happened.

You'll note I'm borrowing a lot of this from a comment I made earlier... ;)

The interesting thing is that these guys weren't the smartest in the room (see: The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron and accompanying movie). Some of them were very creative, but on the whole, Fastow and his cronies were unbelievably stupid, naive, ignorant. It's unbelievable they weren't even...more
Meg
Aug 13, 2008 Meg rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: CEOs interested in blaming a scapegoat, the very bored and boring
Shelves: nonfiction
I can't believe how many pages I slogged through for absolutely no reason. What a waste of 784 perfectly good pieces of paper.

First of all, let me say that I generally mistrust nonfiction books that have so much dialog, particularly when it stretches back into the 1980s. Seriously, did everyone involved have such photographic memories. And, while Eichenwald does a whole thing at the beginning about what is and isn't true to life, it still felt weird. Not, however, as weird as the many comments...more
Ben Walker
A pretty interesting story, fairly well told. The author clearly knew the details well, but didn't get them across as clearly as he could have, IMHO. I also read elsewhere that maybe Fastow isn't the villain he's set out to be in this story -- I wonder how much of the author's opinion shaped his presentation of the characters. (Another example is that Ken Lay was shown as a likable, but slightly oblivious. I'm surprised someone like that would rise to CEO.)
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“Enron was becoming a virtual cult of creativity, often placing swagger over substance. New ideas were celebrated for their newness, for their potential; tried and true businesses like the pipelines were almost derided.” 1 likes
“Enron would keep its unearned windfall, generated solely because David Duncan didn't know what he was doing.” 1 likes
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